Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fuel Carriage Ban Adopted as IMO Sets Rules on Pollution from Ships  

Marine Environment Protection Committee has a Busy Week

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Shipping News Feature WORLDWIDE – When considering the work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) it is often easy to be critical from a variety of standpoints. Having any level of control over the global management of shipping is without doubt a daunting task, particularly considering the size of the industry, every facet of which has some degree of influence or other throughout the hallowed halls on London's Albert Embankment.

Often accused of being a lumbering giant, the IMO ploughs on regardless, sorting every detail and listening to every argument, in a quest to gain universal acceptance of its proposed regulations, and sometimes the degree of work put in is demonstrated when it achieves real results which benefit the entire ocean going community and beyond.

The past few days has seen the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) holding its seventy third session and tasked with dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s for the incoming sulphur cap, which will see a radical change in fuel policy implemented when the 3.5% limit on sulphur in vessel reduces to a maximum of 0.5% on 1 January 2020. The MEPC made a further amendment, despite some objections. Meanwhile the designated emission control areas (ECAs) will see the limit remain even lower, at 0.10%.

The complementary MARPOL amendment, due to enter force three months later than the mandatory sulphur cap, on 1 March 2020, will prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship - unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system (‘scrubber’) fitted. Installing a scrubber is accepted by flag States as an alternative means to meet the sulphur limit requirement.

The committee also was keen for vessel operators to complete ship implementation planning regarding the changes, and issued a set of guidelines including sections on: risk assessment and mitigation plan (impact of new fuels); fuel oil system modifications and tank cleaning plus fuel oil capacity and segregation capability; procurement of compliant fuel; a changeover plan from old type oil to new, all of this to be properly documented.

These implementation plans, or SIPs, are not mandatory but will be useful in demonstrating to all the steps taken by vessel operators to ensure compliance when the cap comes into force. The MEPC also approved guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers, this is intended to assist fuel oil purchasers and users in assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to and used on board ships, with respect to both compliance with the MARPOL requirements and the safe and efficient operation of the ship.

A call went out to all parties of MARPOL to take all reasonable steps to promote the availability of acceptable fuel oils and inform the IMO of the availability of compliant fuel oils in its ports and terminals. Notably such parties are also required to notify IMO when a ship has presented evidence of the non-availability of compliant fuel oil and can make use of the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) to do so.

There were also discussions measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters centred on developing appropriate methodology to conduct an impact assessment on Arctic communities and economies of a proposed ban on such oils. If a ban on such fuels are considered worth the impact on Arctic communities this may be introduced but will require a precise definition initially as to what constitutes a heavy fuel oil.

The IMO reinforced its argument as to the importance and urgency of reducing ship generated SOx emissions by stating that its research in 2016 revealed non-compliance with the cap would contribute to more than 570,000 additional premature deaths worldwide between 2020-2025. It has taken twelve years to introduce these changes, now it is up to the individual states which are party to MARPOL Annex VI to ensure they are carried out.

Photo: The 73rd session of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73), 22-26 Oct 2018.

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